Thanks for all the kind messages in the last post ❤ Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Let’s hope we all have a good one!
To kick off the new year, I wanted to talk about something I’m going to be doing differently: I won’t be doing any resolutions. Which, considering the fact I didn’t feel like recapping my 2021 resolutions, makes sense.
The thing is, I gave up on my reading resolutions very early in the year. A lot happened and I didn’t bother checking in with them- I just let my mood-reading-freak-flag fly high. So naturally when it came to doing a wrap up… it seemed a bit pointless. Sure, I could randomly tick off and cross off goals, yet if it was all unconscious and arbitrary, why bother? Which got me thinking about my goal setting in future.
The thing is, I’m a naturally goal-oriented person. I love setting myself a target and then running at it full pelt. However, I do think that setting goals when it comes to reading can put a bit of a dampener on things. I end up thinking too much in terms of what I’m achieving and less about what I’m enjoying right now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m happiest being a mood reader. And reading is ultimately a hobby for me that *I don’t want added pressure from*. If I want to read something right now, I will. I don’t want to ruin that by thinking about what I (supposedly) ought to be reading.
Which also makes me think about how *boring* my resolutions posts were becoming. Because I try to accommodate my mood-reading ways, I tend to play it safe and try to stick to things I’d like to read anyway. That in turn becomes really samey (and doubtless really dull to read). My posts (including the one I scrapped) were pretty much falling into a formula of “I set these really easy goals and then I did them- woohoo!” And that seems daft to write about, considering how all the things I’m excited about were often left of field! I much prefer revealing all the lovely bookish surprises in stats and other wrap ups.
Ultimately, I can’t predict what’s going to happen… and that includes not knowing whether I’ll want to return to resolutions in the future. Right now, I’m going to let the goals go and just read whatever I fancy. Have a cool 2022!
Are any of you trying something new? How do you feel about resolutions? Let me know in the comments and Happy New Year! ❤
I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, but found it hard to start, because of course libraries matter, ISN’T THAT OBVIOUS?! Yet, a lot of the time libraries seem to go under the radar… or worse, when they do get attention, it’s for terrible reasons (ie experiencing ruthless cuts). But working in a library during the pandemic has made me acutely aware of just how vital libraries are. Seeing how much people have missed being inside and feeling that spark of joy being back, I understand more than ever why libraries matter so much. And it’ll be my pleasure to share some of those reasons with you now!
#1 Libraries are a hub for the community. Anyone can join the library and use its resources. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re there for- everyone’s welcome 😊 The are a beautiful (bookish) sanctuary from the outside world! Which is especially useful for shy bookworms 😉
#2 They provide place to work. Granted, this has not been quite the same for a lot of libraries in the last year, but libraries generally provide study space, wifi and computer access- all of which is so important if you’re from a low-income background or struggling to find room to work. I know this was really significant to me as a teen and a young adult. Libraries make such a difference for so many people.
#3 FREE BOOKS! I mean, you knew I was going to put this in here, didn’t you? 😉 Because what is better than free books?! I know I could never feed my bookish addiction without the library. Every year the number of books I borrow goes up. And it’s looking like the same is true for everyone that’s been borrowing at a rate of knots during the pandemic. Plus, it’s not just a great idea to borrow for leisure, because there are plenty of educational books too! You can learn about everything from knitting to ancient Chinese philosophy to law!
#4 Oh, and while we’re on the topic, there are other free resources. With a library card, you can get access to online resources like Borrowbox, Libby/Overdrive and more! You can also get access to online subscriptions (like Which) and a whole host of other things. Personally, I’ve missed out on these in the past, because I didn’t know they were there… so if in doubt, just ask! (Particularly in the pandemic, when libraries have been offering freebies like lending DVDs).
#5 They provide fun activities– particularly for children. Obviously, this has been scaled back and mostly online because of that thing-that-happened-in-2020-which-we-won’t-talk-about. BUT these are due to come back with a vengeance soooo watch this space (/check your library website 😉)
#6 Finally, and my personal favourite, you can get ideas about what books you might want to read! Lots of library staff can tell you what’s new, what’s exciting and what you might like based on your taste. One of the biggest perks of the job for me is finding books that readers will love- I always enjoy this question- and actually wish more people would ask!!
And that’s all I have for now! Though I’m sure there are plenty more reasons I missed! What do you think? Are libraries important to you? And why? Let me know in the comments!
In the past bizarre (and frequently terrible) year, reading has kept a lot of us going. Whether it’s through escapism or giving me much needed life advice, books have proven their power to keep us going. I know for myself books have been a great escape.
For me, opening a new book or even starting a fresh chapter has been like pressing the reset button. It doesn’t matter which head I’ve stepped into for the time being- it’s a relief to see the world through a different lens. Because books don’t just lower stress levels- they frequently act as a handy Guide Out of Hell. They may not be able to slay a dragon (try throwing one at its head and see how far it gets you) but they can offer some good tips 😉
Books are educational in a million different ways, teaching us everything from empathy to philosophy to practical skills… and beyond! It’s the one leveller we have left when it comes to education, because it’s still an affordable hobby (make use of your libraries people!!) A simple pen to paper can restore balance to a human mind. It can give our thoughts a moment of harmony.
Reading is a refreshing pastime. It doesn’t simply take you away- it gives you plenty of souvenirs. Trinkets you carry around for years, maybe without even knowing it, until at last you look in your pocketses and there’s the one ring… Okay maybe not that last bit! Yet reading does remind me every time that when you discover a new story, there’s no knowing where you might end up.
And yes, this is an indulgent post to write about 😉 I’m sure it will not take much to have bookworms agreeing that reading is a wonderful hobby- but every so often we just need to celebrate reading for all that it is.
Do you agree? Has reading helped you in the last year? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Well, the short answer is yes I probably do, but no it doesn’t matter.
You see, I’ve long come to the conclusion that I have weird taste when it comes to TV. If it looks bad, then I think “finally some good shit”. I just know there’s a higher chance I’ll enjoy it if it’s laughably awful. I like everything everyone seems to think is bad (eg Winx, Emily in Paris). Not because I think they’re masterpieces (I know they aren’t) but because I like my TV to be at the pinnacle of escapism… and bad shows often deliver that.
Good shows can offer some kind of commentary on the real world and most of the time I’m not here for that- sorry! For instance,I never made it through the likes of Breaking Bad, because I just didn’t want to watch 4 seasons of someone selling drugs and dying of cancer. I don’t like when TV is dark and depressing with no relief (or lacks dragons).
It doesn’t help that I have the attention span of a goldfish when it comes to the small screen. If it fails to grab my attention within the first 10 minutes, I’m gone. And I regularly quit TV shows after a season or two. This is partly because of limited time, but mostly because I used to waste time obsessively watching shows I hate (now, because I’m a creature of extremes, I’ve veered in the opposite direction).
I’d like to say that this means I only watch TOP QUALITY shows that are worth my time… yet a lot of the time I seem to stick to the same awful stuff. I am happiest watching the shows that get no critical acclaim and that every reviewer on the internet resoundingly call “trash”. Now, there could be interesting reasons why the shows I like get overwhelmingly negative attention (they’re often ones aimed at a young, female audience) however, I won’t delude myself into thinking a lot of these are better than they are. Most of the time, the shows I’m addicted to simply aren’t very good.
And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Because why should anyone suffer through something they’re not enjoying, even if it’s technically better quality? Of course, there are benefits to immersing yourself in something that stretches your mind, yet for me TV is about frivolous fun. For the time being, all I want to watch is light fluff where I can switch my mind off. For me, escapism is important and helps me relax. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Whether it’s TV or books or whatever else you use for entertainment, we can engage with whatever we like. It’s not going to hurt anyone if you only like fun, escapist stories. And it’s not going to ruin someone else’s day if you crave something a bit silly. Taste isn’t just subjective- it’s pretty damn harmless.
Does anyone else think like this? Do you sometimes question your own taste? Let me know in the comments!
It’s the tenth anniversary of Game of Thrones… and I wouldn’t have noticed if not for this video on its ruined legacy. And it got me thinking a couple of things- 1) how did time fly so fast and 2) was GOT ruined or was it always designed to go up in wildfire? Obviously, I won’t be using this post to address the former, just the latter 😉
Before GRRM superfans tar and feather me- I’m not trying to take away the series’ merit. Don’t get me wrong: I love the world building, the characters and fascinating themes. However, speaking to my own personal taste, reflecting on some of the concepts does make me wonder if I was always going to wind up unhappy with the ending.
Game of Thrones was always a divisive series. Barely an episode could go by without some kind of critique or scandal. And this is not an accident or merely the showrunner’s doing. Going off of Martin’s own interviews, much of the series is designed to be a counterbalance to traditional fantasy. The traditional fantasy that I, and many other mainstream audiences, love. Lord of the Rings, for instance, is famously hopeful, inspiring and the prime example of good triumphing over evil. Though it has tragic elements, it certainly does not hinge on them. When we set out from the Shire we are assured of a safe(ish) resolution.
Whereas GRRM promised us bittersweet. And if it is to be a counterbalance to the likes of LOTR then by golly that must be some BITTERsweet ending. Most of the plot points have tragedy written all over them; there is barely a glimmer of optimism in all the books. The best we could hope for is our favourites not dying and maybe, just maybe getting their revenge! In the words of Ramsay Bolton…
That’s not to say all tragedies are disappointing. In the usual ebb and flow of a tragedy, there is often a highpoint that alleviates the characters’ (and the readers’) suffering. Think Tess and Angels’ blissful summer in Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Of course, we know this lovely moment cannot last, yet we can delude ourselves into thinking it will, and this gives us our catharsis. Game of Thrones never really does that. Romantic moments are often told from another perspective or tarnished by the realities of the situation (eg Daenerys may fall in love with Khal Drogo, but she’s also raped by him first).
There’s a reason every moment of “happiness” is framed this way. And that’s because it’s working from a principle of being *realistic in the postmodernist sense*. It’s fundamentally endorsing the idea that meaning is found where you place its value. In the world of Game of Thrones, there are no heroes and villains, there is no good vs evil, there is no right and wrong. There is no objective truth- merely the matter of where you place your sympathy. GRRM takes the morally relativistic view that all his characters will inevitably fall to the dark side… And frankly none of their struggles matter because of that. No happy ending is/was ever possible in this series- for anyone. Which is not so much tragic as it is depressing.
As much as I can appreciate this for its uniqueness, it’s not exactly satisfying. That’s not the point of this story. Rather, it’s designed to push boundaries, subvert our expectations and make us question the genre. While we like to blame D&D for the subversive elements, subversion is pretty much woven into the fabric of the narrative. And that has its upsides… and its downsides. Because sometimes there can be narrative consequences when you try to challenge an existing idea.
Inevitably you may question the story that’s making you question everything. I for one don’t think every concept in GOT makes sense. The critique of Aragorn becoming king, for example, is flawed. Because, I happen to think that if he’s capable enough to get an army of dead people on his side, then he’s perfectly capable of hiring some plumbers to set up a sewage system (and I have no idea why GRRM thinks otherwise). It is entirely possible for a leader to be strategic on the battlefield and with the treasury (and there are historic examples of this). This may seem like nit-picking, yet this is such a foundational element to the story, that it leaves me questioning will I ever be satisfied with the outcome of this series? These issues nag away at me and could indicate that this series was never for me in the first place.
Of course, this whole post is somewhat premature. No matter what I think I know, I have to add the caveat that I don’t know the actual ending (none of us do). There are some incredible theories mapping out sensational conclusions and GRRM’s finale could end up putting even those to shame. So, this post could be meaningless when the final book comes out. Personally, I very much look forward to being proved wrong 😉
So, what do you think? Are you optimistic about GRRM’s ending? Do you have doubts like me? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
There are lots and lots of reasons to be clear about what you want in life and reading. For starters, there’s considerably less pain and more to gain. It’s a great way to find more joy, meaning and happiness. And it’s a strong way to avoid following the crowd off a cliff and into a great big steaming pile of cow dung (which you could’ve smelt from the top of that cliff if you’d only listened to your nose).
Cos yeah, we’ve all been there (figuratively speaking). We’ve all picked up that book we damn well knew we didn’t want to read; we’ve all taken someone else’s word to avoid something we later enjoyed. Then we’ve kicked ourselves for time wasted. We’ve all thought why did I listen/not listen to the hype just then. And of course, no one is fully immune to the nebulous methods of marketing gurus, but being clear on what you do actually want is a good way not to get swayed in either direction. It’s a good way to know whether to hop on that bandwagon… and it’s also a good way to steer clear of the cancellation fanatics too. Knowing your own taste is about being comfortable in your own skin (so that hopefully you don’t go all Buffalo Bill on your enemies).
The great thing about knowing your own taste is you don’t have to avoid different points of view… not that it would work anyway. Amazingly, you can’t socially distance yourself from every single differing opinion (much as some people would like to try) which is why it’s probably healthier to just take it in small doses 😉 And luckily, there’s this tried and tested method of just listening to people with different views/perspectives/tastes. I often read and watch reviews from people who don’t have the same opinions to me- and you know what? Doesn’t hurt a bit! Sometimes I learn something, sometimes I find something new to read… and sometimes nothing happens at all and I go on my merry way.
Because part of being a sentient human/primate is knowing not to take every word other people say as gospel. It’s only if we know ourselves that we can understand another point of view. That’s why if you know your own taste, you won’t have any trouble identifying where opinions overlap and where they diverge. It really is that simple.
Plus, there’s the added bonus that it might just make you a better reviewer. I know we all like to pretend that our word is final, but taste is subjective! And that means knowing where other people might not agree with us. I, for one, have always been pretty clear that I like prose on the more flowery side (or as I like to put it, I’m firmly on the Fitzgerald side of the Hemmingway-Fitzgerald Divide). I also care less about world building than some other fantasy fans. Etcetera etcetera. Point is: it’s good to know when not to trust reviewers.
So, don’t just listen to me! Go with your gut. Pick up that book no one but you seems interested in. Read whatever *you* want to read (and then put it down again if it turns out it wasn’t for you 😉).
Oh and just by chance, as I was finishing writing this post, this helpful video popped up in my subs:
Just some food for thought! What do you think? Do you think knowing your own taste helps you avoid the hype/hate train? Let me know in the comments!
Ahh the topic that will never die. Recently on book twitter (because it’s always on twitter) there was a flaming row debate about how people that write negative end of year posts (ie worst of the year/most disappointing etc) were evil and should burn in hell wrong to do so. So here we are again. Even though I’ve discussed this before (more than once), I feel like there’s still more to say on the topic. Because I would go further than saying “negative reviews aren’t that bad”- I think there’s a lot of positive things to say about them too.
Negative reviews make positive reviews more meaningful. The whole point of reviews is to get an honest reaction from a reader- otherwise it’s not a review at all. As Briana from Pages Unbound pointed out in her brilliant post on this topic, sticking to purely positive reviews is just marketing. And, unfortunately for authors, readers justifiably won’t just blindly trust marketing. Books need organic interest to do well; readers need real reactions.
As a subset of this, a little negativity can lower hype. For me, this is especially useful, as overhyped books intimidate me. I don’t want to be the first person to dislike it and I don’t want to go into a book with expectations that are too high. I don’t fancy being a guinea pig (I’m a monkey) so I actually need someone to try it first and say something a bit more balanced before I can read it (come to think of it I’m more like a sheep 😉)
Also, negative reviews rarely put people off. I for one can only think of a single time that a negative review put me off a book (over a very specific taboo subject). Frankly, the only guaranteed way to make sure I don’t read your book is having a hissy fit about negative reviews (and a good way to get me to support the reviewer in question).
On the flipside, negative reviews can make me add it to my TBR- even if it’s something I’ve never heard of before. Readers are smart enough to know that reviews are subjective and discern whether they want to read it on their own. For instance, one of my biggest pet peeves is the insertion of unnecessary politics into entertainment- some readers agree with me, others don’t. Amazingly, because people have minds of their own and can think for themselves (*gasp*) I get plenty of people commenting on negative reviews telling me they plan to read the offending book anyway 😉 (even more amazingly, I don’t stop them! 😉) It’s almost as if people have freewill 😉 And I hate to break it to any author that doesn’t know: not everyone is going to love your book! Reviews aren’t just for readers, they’re for finding the *right* readers.
Let’s be real though- negativity isn’t always about people that haven’t read the book. No, it’s also therapeutic for readers to bond over books they didn’t like. I don’t know about you, but I’m more often drawn to negative reviews for books I didn’t love. I fully admit this is playing into my confirmation bias- but I find it helps me clarify my own thoughts and realising *I’m not the only one* helps me feel sane!
Now, as hard as it may be, I do also try to read negative reviews for the books I love, because I’m all about (attempts at) objectivity for favourites. For me, this is a healthy way of developing a well-rounded response to a book. Sure, I’m unlikely to agree with all the criticisms (because when it comes to arguments around books, feelings come first). Nonetheless, I find it helpful to get different perspectives 1) because it makes me a better reviewer, so I can warn readers off things they may not like (which could be as simple as a statement of fact, like “it’s slow” or “it has flowery writing) and 2) because it gives me the opportunity to strengthen my argument in favour of a book 😉 Because ultimately, that’s what this is all about… even negative reviews act as a ploy to get people to read MORE BOOKS 😉
So, what do you think? Do negative reviews have a place in reviewing? Do you see the positive side to negativity? Or do you see this debate differently? Let me know in the comments!
Yeahhh I knew I’d make that joke before the end of the year 😉 (don’t be surprised if I make it several more times before we’re done, cos something good had to come out of this year 😉). I don’t know about you, but I love to look back on my top ten posts every so often. It gives me such warm fuzzy feelings to revisit and remember every great book I read. And I get especially nostalgic as I start working on my new favourites lists! Which is why, after five years of doing Top Tens, I thought I’d share some thoughts about what happens when I look back on these posts!
Very occasionally, there are books I look at and think “why did I put that on here?”. A good example of this is Throne of Glass, back in 2015, because I only fell in love with it at book 3 (it’s possibly also tainted for me by later books). That said, this rarely happens, because competition is usually so fierce and (luckily) I read a lot of unbelievably amazing books!!
Sometimes, though, I would like to reshuffle the list a little. Such as in 2016War and Peace should’ve ended up at #2 and Peculiar Children at #10. Also, in retrospect, I read so many *incredible* books in 2018, that I don’t know if I would keep the same order (Circe certainly seems like it should be higher… but then it had some really stiff competition!)
That said, so far my feelings about the number one pick haven’t changed! And on that note, I love that each year I’ve chosen a book from a different genre: non fic in 2015 (admittedly by accident cos I didn’t order that post on purpose), historical thriller in 2016 (or whatever genre Shadow of the Wind is being classed as today 😉), fantasy in 2017, classic in 2018, contemporary in 2019 (which was also an audiobook for a change!)… it’s a great mix!
(BTW my least favourites never change position- but the big difference is I don’t tend to go back to them, cos I like to forget those books existed!)
So there you go- that’s what I think when I go back and look at old top tens! Do you have this habit too? Do your opinions on the books you’ve included change or stay the same? Do you ever rethink the order? Let me know in the comments!
Taking on board criticism is an important part of life. As writers in particular, we need feedback to grow, improve and potentially perfect our craft (as the marvellous Mary @Mary and the Words talked about recently). It’s therefore no surprise that it’s become a cornerstone of modern writing advice to get that crucial reader response.
AND YET, not all of that criticism is going to be worthwhile. Let’s be real: it’s not always going to be constructive or helpful or relevant. This may be an *unpopular opinion* right now, but you don’t always have to listen to it.
Sometimes you just have to *take the advice from whence it comes*. If someone, however nicely, says that the style is just not for them or that they don’t read this sort of thing- that’s fine! We all know that taste is subjective, so not everyone is going to be the right reader for your work. Heck- there are plenty of bestselling authors that I don’t jibe with. That’s why you have to be cautious with this kind of advice (And on the offchance, as has happened to me, someone doesn’t like the genre/category you write in and wants you to write to suit their tastes… well they can kindly sod off).
There is also the issue that not all criticism is designed to be helpful. Especially if they rouse a hate mob against you. Call me a cynic- I just don’t think people trying to destroy a career have an author’s best interests at heart. I know there’s a lot of talk about “learning” and “growing” from those experiences- nonetheless it seems the vast majority advice being doled out is to *run and hide* (in far less friendly terms). And, going beyond this specific example, I think it’s fair to dismiss critiques designed as an attack. Insulting, degrading or being downright abusive are not productive (as the wonderful Rain @the Withering discussed on her blog). On the plus side, those kinds of critiques can get you in the mindset of proving the bastards wrong! 😉
I’d also add that sometimes the criticism is coming too late in the day ie reviews. Yes, you could learn from reviews as an author, buuuut at that stage the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. If you read them, you’ll just waste lot of time wishing you’d written that book differently. Best to leave them alone. After all, reviews are for readers– not the author (and thus shouldn’t be sent to them unsolicited).
Ultimately, criticism can add some much-needed spice to your work, though it’s still worth taking it with a grain of salt 😉
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with me that there are times when you can dismiss criticism? And are there any other times when you should just ignore the advice? Let me know in the comments!
As a reader, I’ve never been a fan of genre snobbery. It’s limiting, makes reading less fun and means missing out on whole worlds of experiences. But what about for writers? Surely, if you’re an aspiring writer, you need to focus on reading obsessively in your own genre? Wouldn’t it be better to not get distracted by all those shiny titles outside the category you’re writing in? Well, while reading books in your own genre is *a must*, I’d argue reading widely is also vital for a writer’s development. Each genre has something special to offer and lots of unique lessons to learn. And even if successfully pulling off a technique is not guaranteed by simply knowing it exists, being exposed to a greater variety certainly helps! Let’s break it down by genre, shall we?
Romance– I mean the clue is in the title… romances teach you how to develop a romance. Whether it’s hate to love, friends to lovers or anything in between, all the tropes have been tried and tested in this very broad category. And it’s such a long-standing genre, so there are *countless* classics to choose from (not just harlequin novels with topless men on the covers 😉). If you want more banter and happily ever afters, then you need to be checking this out! What’s more, it doesn’t stop with the romantic relationships. Friendships and family relationships are a strong element of this genre- even if they’re dysfunctional (because, yes, you can learn how to write toxic relationships from this too- even if it’s just an accident of bad writing 😉). Basically anything related to relationships are going to be explored in this genre- so unless you’re writing a book about a hermit, you may want to at least try a romance sometime.
Fantasy– ahh my genre of choice. I could rave forever about why this genre is *out of this world*. Perhaps just one of the reasons I find it so rewarding is that, in some ways, it’s the purest form of storytelling. With more mythologically based narratives and archetypal characters, it can give an idealised version of reality (if not a real one). Plus, all that magic world building is great inspiration, because even if you’re setting it in the real world, you need to have a sense of place. It also has a great tradition of the pure evil villain or the fascist archetypal dictator- even if it’s not as good at the more human villains (although GRRM is a good example of someone breaking that mould). That said, it’s solid in the anti-hero department these days. If you need flawed, but lovable characters, then this is a great genre for it.
Sci fi– this offers a lot of the same things as fantasy in terms of getting a sense of place… though it’s more rooted in reality (which is ironically very useful for fantasy writers!) I’m not a big sci fi reader, but even I can say it’s amazing for philosophical and existential discussions (not just cos this genre includes dystopias… though that’s a big pull!!). Plus, many space operas in particular know how to pack in *action*.
Historical– for me, this is another genre where the strong suit is the setting. Yet what I also like about historical fiction is how it brings facts to life. I also personally love how lots of historical fiction works so well as genre-crossers, blending lots of different categories into one. I’ve read so many that manage to be historical and a thriller and a romance. While every book should manage to do this, I’d say that I particularly love how historical fiction balances its themes and subplots.
Thrillers– for me, thrillers are hands down the best for villains. A lot of the time you’ll have the opportunity to get in the head of some sick mothereffers. Thrillers also allow for sparser writing and occasionally atmospheric reads. It’s also good if you’re looking for some more of that realism (eek if a thriller spins into fantastical territory!). Plus, if you need a clue how to get plotting, pacing and twists right, then boy is this the genre for you!
Non-fiction– well, for starters there’s nothing stranger than real life. Given that non fiction is factual (or at least it should be) you can get *actual knowledge* from them to use in your own books. Personally, I’ve learnt a lot about characterisation, people and the nature of evil from both memoirs and psychology books. But obviously, there’s so much more you can discover!
Of course, this was not an exhaustive list, but I hope it was inspiring! Do you believe there are writerly benefits from reading widely? What do you think they are? And what else do you get out of different genres? Let me know in the comments!